Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police Officer charged with murder on the death of George Floyd, will feed potential jurors in the selection of a jury at his trial in Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 15, 2021 in this court sketch from a video feed of the procedure.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters
Opening statements in the Derek Chauvin trial are set to begin on Monday, ten months after the white former Minneapolis police officer kneeled on George Floyd’s neck before his death and sparked months of protests across the country.
The 45-year-old chauvin is charged with second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. Court officials said the process is expected to take two to four weeks. Chauvin pleaded not guilty.
The historic case comes under pressure from advocates of racial justice, particularly those affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, to hold police accountable for unlawful violence against black people.
The trial will take place in Minneapolis and is closed to the public, although it will be streamed live at Chauvin’s request, a first for a criminal trial in Minnesota.
Three other former officials linked to Floyd’s May 25 arrest, Thomas Lane, Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, will face separate trials in August. These officers pleaded guilty to assisting murder and second degree manslaughter.
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The jury in Chauvin’s case was selected earlier this month, a process that concluded on Tuesday. A total of 15 jurors were selected, including two deputies. Twelve jurors are advised. A juror will be fired when all 15 are ready at the start of the arguments, said Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, who leads the process.
Nine of the jurors are white, four are black, and two are multiracial, The Associated Press reported. The jury consists of nine women and six men. While the jury selection was in progress, Minneapolis announced that it had struck a $ 27 million deal to settle a lawsuit against him by Floyd’s family.
The process is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET.
What is Derek Chauvin accused of?
Floyd, who was 46 years old when he died, was arrested by Lane and Kueng on Memorial Day on suspicion of using a fake $ 20 bill at a Minneapolis Cup Foods.
After Floyd refused to get into a patrol car, Thao and Chauvin arrived on site and tried to get him into the vehicle. Chauvin eventually pulled Floyd out of the car and Floyd “went face down and still handcuffed,” according to a prosecutor’s complaint.
Once Floyd was down, Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s neck while Kueng and Lane held him. Urging him to get out, Floyd called to his late mother and said he couldn’t breathe more than 20 times.
About six minutes after Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s neck for the first time, prosecutors said Floyd stopped responding. Kueng tried to locate a pulse once but was unable to. An ambulance arrived shortly afterwards and Floyd was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
In court records, prosecutors wrote that officials held Floyd “about five times longer than the national anthem and four times longer than President Lincoln’s Gettysburg address”.
“During that time, Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for about four minutes after Lane told other officers Floyd was passing out and two and a half minutes after Kueng said Floyd had no pulse,” they wrote.
“When Floyd passed out, a crowd of onlookers pleaded with the officers. They told the officers they were going to kill Floyd. They shouted that Floyd had stopped moving,” added prosecutors.
The Hennepin County medical investigator who examined Floyd’s body concluded that his mode of death was murder and that it was caused by “cardiopulmonary arrest making subdual, restraint and neck compression difficult for law enforcement”.
The autopsy report also revealed that Floyd had underlying health conditions and medications in his system, including fentanyl and methamphetamine, which contributed to his death.
Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat, appointed Attorney General Keith Ellison, also a Democrat, to oversee the prosecution of Chauvin.
Chauvin was originally charged with third degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years. Ellison added the second degree charge in early June, which has a maximum sentence of 40 years.
What is Chauvin’s Defense?
In court records, Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, wrote that Chauvin “acted within the bounds of his duties to conduct a legitimate legal process.”
Nelson has argued that the state cannot prove that chauvin caused Floyd’s death, citing the levels of narcotics that were in Floyd’s system at the time of his autopsy.
On a file, Nelson writes that the most likely cause of Floyd death was fentanyl, which was likely made worse by his other health problems.
“His heart was at its ‘upper limit’ due to untreated high blood pressure. Mr Floyd had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease. He told officials that he had suffered from COVID-19 and was still positive for the virus at the time of was his death, “wrote Nelson.
Nelson has also argued that the technique Chauvin used to hold Floyd back with his knee was included in the Minneapolis Police Department’s training materials. According to Nelson, Floyd “actively opposed the arrest”.
“Using the MPD’s policies of violence at the time a subject is actively resisting, officers are trained to use controlled decreases and deliberate neck braces to subdue the subject,” wrote Nelson.
Nelson added that Floyd’s health and drug use made the technology more dangerous, but that Chauvin was unaware of it at the time of his arrest.
“Instead, he relied on his education and the information available to him to try to help his co-workers and prevent Mr. Floyd from harming himself. Derek Chauvin did not cause George Floyd’s death,” he wrote.
Prosecutors, including Ellison and Neal Katyal, a high-profile Washington attorney who works for Minnesota, have denied these arguments.
They said that Floyd was “clear” during the arrest and probably not suffered from a fentanyl overdose. They have also argued that the amount of fentanyl detected in the body increases significantly after death.
Floyd, Ellison wrote, “said Chauvin twenty times that he could not breathe and shouted repeatedly that it was Chauvin’s knee on his neck that killed him.”
In court records, prosecutors also argued that the technique used by officers in Floyd’s arrest was different from that used in training police officers.
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